There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing a toddler polish off a plateful of a healthy, nutritious meal that you’ve lovingly prepared.
If this is the norm for you, fantastic! But for 90% of us, our children will go through at least one stage of fussy eating in their lives1, so it’s likely that you will have to deal with a reluctant eater at some time or another.
If that’s the case for you, don’t hang up your apron just yet - we’re here to help with great ways to get them devouring delicious dinners.
If your little one is picking at their plate, the dinner table will soon feel like a battleground, but it may help to remember the bigger picture: It's what they eat over the course of the week that matters, not just one meal3.
Here are our top ten tips to help take your toddler from fussy to full:
1. Lead by example: The best way for your little one to learn and eat new foods, is to copy you. Sit down together for meals as a family and give your child the same food, but just remember not to add salt to theirs
2. Quality over quantity. Give small portions and praise them for eating, even if they only manage a little bit
3. Stay calm: When your child rejects food, never force them to eat it
4. All in the timing: Don't leave meals until your child is too hungry or tired to eat
5. Patience is a virtue: Your child may just be a slow eater so be patient if it's taking them a while to eat their meal
6. Snack attack: Don't give too many snacks in-between meals. Most toddlers will manage three small meals and two or three healthy snacks a day
7. Right rewards: It's best not to use food as a reward. Your toddler may start to think of sweets as nice and vegetables as nasty. Reward them with a trip to the park instead
8. Thirsty work: Remember that little ones often get thirst and hunger mixed up so they may ask for a drink when really they need food
9. The fun factor: Making mealtimes fun and enjoyable may encourage them to eat more - for example, if you're making pizza, arrange the ingredients in the shape of a face
10. Changing tastes: Remember that your little one's tastes will change - its not uncommon for a toddler to love something one week and hate it the next!
Mum-of-one Louise, says
"We went through a phase where my toddler would only eat the same things for every meal. I was so stressed about it but in the end I realised that it was just a cry for attention and when I stopped making a fuss of her, she stopped being fussy with food."
Our expert nutritionist, Vicky Pennington says
"Remember, toddlers learn to like foods gradually and may need to taste a new food several times before they accept it2, so slowly but surely is the key."
If you're stuck in a recipe rut and struggling to think of new and nutritious meals to feed the family, we've got it covered with our 'dawn 'til dusk' meal ideas.
Tasty tip: Remember, when preparing food for children don't add salt, sugar or stock cubes directly to the food, or to the cooking water.
For a delicious way to start the day:
- Porridge, topped with pieces of fruit
- Toast fingers with banana
- Wholewheat biscuit cereal and stewed fruit
- Hard-boiled egg and toast
Lovely lunches to keep them going throughout the day:
- Cauliflower cheese and pasta shapes
- Scrambled egg with bread, chapatti or pitta bread
- Pasta with broccoli and cheese
- Baked beans and toast
Delicious dinners to satisfy their appetite:
- Shepherd's pie with green vegetables
- Chicken and vegetable casserole with mashed potato
- Canned salmon with couscous and peas
- Fish poached in milk with sweet potato
It's too easy to just reach for the biscuit tin when your little one asks for a snack, but here are some tasty, tempting alternatives that will still keep them sweet:
- Fresh fruit or raw sweet vegetables e.g. carrots, peppers
- Unsweetened yogurt
- Toast, chapatti or pitta fingers
- Unsalted rice cakes
- Bagels, muffins or crumpets
- Small cubes of cheese
- Breadsticks with tomato dip or soft cheese
- Canned fruit in fruit juice
We hope that these tips and suggestions will help tempt your toddler into healthy eating habits that can last a lifetime.
 Annabel Karmel
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